Negative thinking when you’re trying to lose weight can send you down the junk food rabbit hole quicker than you tripping over your own feet while meeting your Tinder date. It’s time to combat that detrimental self-talk and turn to the empowering and inspiring weight loss tips that top nutritionists want you to keep on the top of your mind. These pros get paid to nurture others’ nutrition goals, but you get their words of wisdom for free.
1. ’90 Percent Fuel, 10 Percent Fun’
“This is a great one for helping people keep a good perspective on healthy eating,” shares Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color. “You don’t need to count every calorie. Just try to keep a mental tally of what you’ve eaten in a day, week, etc. Kale, quinoa, almonds, and all the rest of the healthy stuff should be the crux of what you’re eating—but there’s still a little room for champagne and chocolate!”
2. ‘Eat to Nourish Your Cells’
We’re gonna go out on a limb and guess you don’t think about your neurons and mitochondria when you’re diving into your burrito bowl. “We often talk about eating in terms of weight loss, and we forget what eating actually does,” emphasizes Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The Well Necessities. “But when we visualize eating to nourish our cells, we begin to see the true purpose of food, and can’t help but want to honor its ability to thrive.”
3. ‘Aim for Progress Not Perfection’
There is no such thing as a perfect diet,” The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure remind us. “Keep making positive changes in your diet and you’ll reap the rewards. When you stray from a healthy eating plan, instead of throwing in the towel on healthy eating altogether, simply acknowledge that you wandered off track and simply wander back on.” Now that you feel more empowered, face these 25 Things You Did Today That Sabotaged Your Weight Loss Goals and make tomorrow a better day!
4. ‘Everything in Moderation. There Aren’t Bad Foods, Just Better Foods!’
“There are many factors that go into everything we eat, each time we eat: Freshness, nutrition, seasonality, culture, comfort, taste, appearance…” says Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh, a leading healthy meal kit delivery service. “That said, denying yourself something that fulfills other needs ends up creating an unhealthy relationship with food. Denial is not a sustainable ‘diet.’ You can and should indulge, just do so responsibly.” Lewis recommends viewing those kinds of foods as treats; you can still eat them, just less often and in smaller portion sizes.
5. ‘Delicious Can Mean Nutritious’
Making a commitment to healthy eating doesn’t mean drab slabs of grilled protein and endless pots of brown rice simmering on your stove. “Healthy doesn’t mean tasteless,” stresses Mitzi Dulan, RD, Author of The Pinterest Diet: How to Pin Your Way Thin and team nutritionist for the Kansas City Royals. “Learn how to make some super simple meals that take minutes, taste fabulous, and are good for you!” Like these 20 Awesome Recipes for Mason Jar Salads, for example!
6. ‘Going on a Diet Means Going off a Diet’
“Don’t diet. Resist the urge to be ‘on a diet’ with weight loss as the expected payoff. ‘On a diet’ means that ‘off a diet’ is not far behind,” says Mary Hartley, RD, a consulting nutritionist from Providence, Rhode Island. “Your routine should be something you can—and will—live with indefinitely. Expect to act healthy for its own sake, regardless of your weight.”
7. ‘Change How You Eat Before You Change What You Eat’
“Studies show that people are more satisfied and eat less when they eat mindfully and without distractions such as the TV or cell phone,” shares Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN, a Nashville-based nutritionist and author of Schedule Me Skinny: Plan to Lose Weight and Keep It Off in Just 30 Minutes a Week. Do yourself a favor and make your kitchen table an iPhone-free zone when you nosh.
8. ‘Snack Like a Two-year-old!’
You officially have our permission. “Snacks are necessary throughout the day because they provide continuous energy and fuel. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about snacking,” says Lon Ben-Asher, RDN, LDN, Nutrition Educator at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa. “If you choose to snack on those so-called ‘healthy’ 100-calorie snacks, you are doing yourself a disservice.” Ben-Asher goes on to explain that those particular snacks are generally high-calorie (very crunchy and full of salt, sugar, and fat) and very addictive. This makes us crave more and is ultimately one of the 25 Foods That Make You Hungrier. Instead, choose to snack on more nutrient-dense whole foods such as apples, bananas, grapes, and other low-calorie foods that fill us up.
9. ‘Learn to Love the Process’
“Lifestyle change should not be short-term,” advises nutritionist Kayleen St. John, RD at Natural Gourmet Institute, a health-supportive cooking school in New York City. “If you’re changing your life, you need to find ways to make it enjoyable so that you find happiness in your everyday. Hate kale? Don’t eat it! Hate spinning? Don’t do it! There is no one-size-fits-all meal or exercise plan that makes everyone happy. Find foods and activities that you genuinely enjoy and learn to love the process.” Amen to that!
10. ‘I Am Breathing In, I Am Breathing Out’
Namaste, folks: “This one might sound a bit silly, but works wonders. Food causes all sorts of emotions to arise, and many of the situations in which we eat (family dinners, holidays) trigger binging or overeating,” offers Hayim. “The second you begin to feel hot, nervous, or anxious, I recommend removing yourself from the situation for a minute, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and repeat this mantra at least five times. When we slow down our breathing, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming us down.”
11. ‘Scales Are for Fish’
If you giggled a little bit at that one, you’re not alone! But there’s something empowering about not acting like the scale is some master truth. “I prefer my clients to keep count of their weight loss in terms of their self-confidence and the way clothing can fit,” explains Hayim. “Scales can be misleading and checking in too frequently can easily become obsessive, leading to feelings of negativity.” And speaking of our underwater fishie friends, make sure not to drink like one, either; there are at least 14 amazing things that happen to your body when you ditch booze.
12. ‘A Treat Doesn’t Have to Be Something That You Eat’
“When you ‘reward’ yourself, it doesn’t always have to be with food. A lot of my clients like to relax at the end of the day and treat themselves with food or a glass of wine, whereas treating yourself to an hour of reading good book or taking a relaxing bath are healthier ways to spoil yourself,” offers Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. We prefer that good book in the bath with a lovely cup of tea.
13. ‘Mistakes Are Proof That You’re Trying’
This is particularly great to remind yourself of on days when you’re feeling down. “To be successful in anything, you can’t let perfection be the enemy of good,” says St. John. “Changing your lifestyle is no exception. Don’t expect to eat ‘perfectly’ or hit your exercise goals everyday because it likely won’t happen. When you slip up and make a mistake, all that means is that you’re trying, which is more than you can say before you began your journey. Mistakes aren’t mistakes; they’re stepping stones.” And ditto for that ex you met three beers deep at that tailgate last Fall.
14. ‘Don’t Love It? Don’t Eat It’
“Don’t waste your calories on foods you don’t love,” comments Dulan. “For example, if you try a dessert that isn’t very good, stop eating it! This works great when you are going to parties or out to eat at a restaurant. When you get food and don’t love it, don’t feel like you need to eat it all.” Dulan says this also helps with portion control since people think they need to clean their plate or get the most for their money, which leads to overeating. Bonus mantra: It’s going to go to waste, either way.
15. ‘Color Your Plate’
You should try to always have a variety of different colors and hues of foods on your plate, according to Ben-Asher. “It is important to have a balance of plant-based foods consisting of fruits, vegetables, and unrefined carbohydrates. The more colors and the deeper the colors, the more vitamins and minerals and antioxidant phytonutrients a food possesses—which is important in disease prevention and health promotion.” Load up on these best veggies for weight loss for a double win of nutrition and a flat belly!
16. ‘Finish Eating by Sundown’
Here’s an interesting study Hartley shared with us: Mice that ate after 7 p.m. gained weight, even when it was the same amount of calories as the mice that didn’t. “Current scientific knowledge maintains that it doesn’t matter when you eat, as long as you stay within your daily calorie requirements to maintain a healthy weight. But I expect those recommendations to change in time.” And ever notice how when you eat late at night you feel crummy the next morning, skip breakfast, and then wind up overeating later? That’s a vicious cycle that’s worth breaking tonight, by 6:59 p.m.
17. ‘Cook at Home, Take Control of Your Health’
“More than 50 percent of the average American’s food budget is spent on foods prepared outside the home,” says Lewis. “We have a heavy reliance on foods that are higher in calories, fats, sugars, and sodium. On the flip side, when foods are cooked at home, they are inherently healthier because you get to decide every ingredient that goes into what you cook.” Lewis says that being connected to the food you are cooking creates a better awareness and mindfulness of what you’re putting into your body. (You’ll save a ton of money from not dining out.) Not exactly an Iron Chef in the kitchen (yet)? Check out our easy, healthy recipes!
18. ‘Work on Your Spiritual Growth and Weight Loss Will Follow’
“Instead of measuring progress in terms of pounds gained or loss, look for signs that mark your emotional growth,” recommends Hartley. “Do you nourish your soul, cope well with stress, persevere through setbacks, and love your body and yourself? Emotional health usually produces physical health.”
19. ‘Don’t Eat Unless You Are Truly Hungry’
“Learn to monitor your hunger-fullness level,” advises Hartley. “Eat when you are one-fourth full and stop when you are three-fourths full. Adjust the amount and type of food you eat so that hunger occurs every five hours of so.” Load up on these 10 foods to make you lose weight without feeling hungry and be amazed by how much longer you feel full!
20. ‘Have Faith in the Set Point Theory’
This one best applies to those who have had recent weight gain, such as post-pregnancy or from stress, as opposed to struggled with weight their whole lives. “The set point theory is the theory that an adult’s body is maintained at a stable level over long periods,” offers Hayim. “It suggests that your weight is predetermined and that you have a feedback mechanism that will ultimately bring you back to your original weight.” In other words, don’t freak out; everything will be okay.
21. ‘Every Day is a Brand New Chance to Start Taking Care of Yourself’
“This is one of my favorite mantras,” offers Largeman-Roth. “Lots of people get down on themselves because they went crazy and ate and drank too much on their birthday, vacation, etc. I really try to encourage folks to look at every day as a new chance to start fresh and make the choices you want to make.” Start fresh with The 30 Best Breakfast Habits to Drop 5 Pounds!
22. ‘Quality and Quantity’
“Yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing; you don’t need three cups quinoa,” advises St. John. “While a calorie-restricted diet full of processed foods isn’t the way to go either, both quality and quantity of food need attention for long-term health and wellness.” Yes, even dark chocolate can be too much of a good thing.
23. ‘Looking and Feeling Amazing is the Best Revenge’
When all else fails, this is one heck of a mantra to remember when you don’t feel like holding that plank any longer. “After a bad breakup or a job loss, it can be so tough to motivate,” admits Largeman-Roth. “But if you look at your health and fitness as a project and attack it that way, you can find the motivation to move past the pain and disappointment of a failed relationship or career setback. I personally have used this one several times in my life!” Because yes, even nutritionists get tempted to reach for Ben & Jerry when they’re bummed out.
24. ‘There Will Always Be Another Meal’
Many people overindulge in their favorite foods as if they’ll never get to eat them again, say The Nutrition Twins. “This mantra is perfect for helping our clients remember to slow down, enjoy their food, and realize that they will have many opportunities to appreciate this food again. They can choose smaller portions or pass on certain foods now, and know that they can also enjoy them in the future.”
25. ‘Motivation Gets You Started; Habits Keep You Going’
The Nutrition Twins explain it well: “Once you get started, your changes become a way of life, you form good habits, and you no longer need motivation—it simply becomes a lifestyle. Once it’s routine, it’s a way of life, which makes it easier to keep following the healthy track.” Take comfort in that it gets easier!